$10 million in State of Florida grant money is coming to the Panhandle, to help pay for upgrades in local storm water infrastructure. That word comes from state Senate President Don Gaetz.
The money is part of a $90 million settlement between the Department of Justice and MOEX Offshore – a co-owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded four years ago, causing the nation’s worst oil spill.
MOEX Offshore is the first company to resolve spill-related civil penalty claims filed by both federal and state governments. Gaetz says the money will be used on projects, based on designs and engineering by the state DEP and local governments -- such as building stormwater retention ponds.
Half of the $10 million will help foot the bill for seven stormwater projects in Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Bay counties. Those include one in Gulf Breeze, where groundbreaking was held on Wednesday. City Manager Buz Eddy says their share of the grant will pay about $1.6 million of the $1.8 million cost of building a couple of “wet wells” and related infrastructure.
Besides the claims in federal court, Sen. Don Gaetz says there’s movement at the state level in securing funds from BP and elsewhere. Attorney General Pam Bondi filed suit last year in federal court in Panama City. It includes several counts under federal, state and maritime law and focuses on Florida's economic losses. The state also seeks punitive damages.
But Gaetz points to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, in cautioning that final settlements of Deepwater Horizon claims may also take years.